Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek has the small matter of a World Cup campaign to navigate with England before making any definite decisions on his domestic future, but one quote the 22-year-old gave over the weekend hinted that he may well push for a move away from Stamford Bridge before the new campaign begins.
Loftus-Cheek “Going forward I've really realised the importance of playing regularly for my own progress and development. I felt like I got better & better every game at #CPFC so playing regularly is the key going forward and that will help me make my decision after the World Cup
— ChelsTransfer (@ChelsTransfer) June 10, 2018
Having taken the plunge and agreed to a loan move away from the Blues for the first time in his career at the start of last season, Ruben seemed to thrive. Whilst he and his new teammates at Crystal Palace initially struggled under the guidance of Frank de Boer, the swift arrival of former England boss Roy Hodgson quickly turned both the team and Loftus-Cheek’s fortunes around.
Proving to be comfortable in a number of positional roles across the park, Ruben rapidly became a key cog in the gaffer’s plans from week to week, working alongside the likes of Luka Milivojevic, Yohan Cabaye, Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha to make the Eagles one of the most competitive midfield units outside of the Premier League’s top six.
Having been described by both Hodgson and his assistant Ray Lewington as a man with “no weaknesses” in the time since his season-long loan drew to a close, it’s fair to say that the Chelsea academy graduate would be welcomed back at Selhurst Park with open arms, should he decide that SE25 is where his future lies. Of course, it’s only natural for him to ask questions over his continuing role within the Blues’ set-up but unlike last summer, the power now lies in the midfielder’s hands.
If he comes away from the World Cup with an enhanced reputation as I expect him to, Loftus-Cheek will have every right to ask the Chelsea hierarchy for assurances over game-time if he does decide to stay. Of course, with a long contract already signed they are under no obligation to sell him but if there are willing buyers (Palace are sure to be one of them) it would be foolish to hang onto an unhappy player for another year or more.
As things stand, I still expect him to start the new season as a regular name on the Chelsea team-sheet but if he remains marooned on the bench, I can imagine he’ll be absolutely desperate to get away by the time the January window opens.